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While power metal band Brainstorm is riding the wave of recent successes, particularly with their latest CD 'Memorial Roots', the band's vocalist Andy B. Franck has been working hard (and with far less success) with his other band, the lesser known Symphorce.
Symphorce was created by Franck back in 1998, before he joined Brainstorm in 1999 and managed to work and co-exist in both bands ever since. So while he has achieved growing success and popularity with Brainstorm since joining, Symphorce on the other hand had unfortunately not moved in the same direction. 'Unrestricted' is Symphorce's 7th full-length album and it is also their first release under the AFM Records banner, after their previous 4 CDs with Metal Blade and their first 2 with Noise. The remainder of Symphorce's line-up includes guitarists Cedric C. Dupond (ex-Freedom Call) and Markus Pohl (Mystic Prophecy), drummer Steffen Theurer (ex-Chinchilla), and bassist Dennis Wohlbold.
Reviews for Symphorce's previous releases around the net have been quite erratic, with a few somewhat positive, however also a few more quite negative. Overall there is a general consensus throughout all the reviews; that there's something missing in the band's sound that would lift them out of the shadows and separate them from the plethora of mediocre power metal bands currently around.
I believe that Symphorce have finally found that "missing something" with their latest release, 'Unrestricted'. On the disc, the band have really improved quite a lot from previous CDs and have found their own niche in the melodic power metal genre. In reviews of the band's previous discs, writers have commented that Symphorce were trying to sound like Nevermore, but on 'Unrestricted' I must say that I cannot hear a Nevermore presence. I do hear vague similarities with Franck's main band Brainstorm, but ultimately it seems that Symphorce have finally found their own sound. Not much these days is considered new or fresh in the power metal genre, and that applies here, but overall, the sound on 'Unrestricted' is material you've heard before, but it shouldn't be a reason not to enjoy it.
While the melodic power metal swings to a more Americanised style rather than European, 'Unrestricted' features crunching guitar riffs, powerful grooves and melody, memorable choruses and another solid gold vocal performance by Andy B. Franck. The tracks aren't all that speedy and they pretty much stay in the mid-pace tier; but there is quite a lot of diversity on the album which is another big plus.
The best two tracks on 'Unrestricted' are both the opening melodic scorcher "The Eternal" (which is reminiscent of Brainstorm) and the final track on the disc "Do You Ever Wonder". The final track is just fantastic, containing wicked groove metal riffs, pounding drumming and aggressive sounding vocals. With a kick ass chorus, the track is a brilliant way to end the album. There aren't that many guitar solos on the disc, but the majority of the tracks are structured in a way where they are not really needed. With that being said, I personally would have liked a few blistering solos in there to make this release even better.
"Until it's Over" is another top track, with a memorable chorus which sticks in your head; while "Worlds Seem To Collide" is an emotional rockin' track with Franck again the standout. "Sorrow in Our Hearts" is a melodic winner, which has a great low end guitar riff that just forces you to bang your head; while "Whatever Hurts" has Sinner's signature sound written all over it, again quite melodic with another driving riff. In the end, all 10 tracks on the release are very good and there are no weak songs to be found whatsoever.
After spinning this CD quite a few times, I was immediately hooked and found it hard to believe that their earlier releases were stated as being sub-par. Symphorce has worked extremely hard on this album and their dedication stands out enormously. The band has turned a corner with 'Unrestricted' and that title couldn't be any more accurate as Symphorce sound like they had been given a great deal of creative freedom. Needless to say, the end result is exceptional and in my opinion 'Unrestricted' is Symphorce's best release to date.
I was pleasantly surprised by this album, after only expecting just a "ho-hum" release going by the reviews of previous releases. I urge anyone who is a fan of melodic power metal in the same vein as Brainstorm and Circle II Circle who may have discarded Symphorce in the past, to give 'Unrestricted' a good listen and hopefully change your mind about them. Take a bow guys, you have definitely earned it.
Originally written for www.themetalforge.com
Many have been quick to point out a trend in power metal towards a so-called modern sound. While there is a lot of ambiguity in this terminology, the actual character of the sound is noted by a processed yet very primitive character. Indeed, the more modern a band tends to be in its approach, the more oversimplified everything tends to be. A better label would probably be mainstream or radio-friendly metal, but the “modern” label does tend to demonstrate a cold and passionless character that is fitting for this music as well.
Symphorce (who I have occasionally referred to jokingly as “Sympharce”) is among the more blatant and longstanding examples of this sectarian sub-style within power metal, and in fact being a precursor to it as they’ve sounded this way for the lion’s share of the 2000s. They could be described as more metallic than the utterly horrid misfires that occurred on Human Fortress’ “Eternal Empire” and a number of other metalcore infused albums. But the looming presence of 90s alternative rock and groove metal tendencies are all there, in spite of the clearly 80s influenced melodic material and somewhat more consonant vocal sound.
For all of the valleys and peaks which have maybe only gone a few inches above, “Unrestricted” could be considered a career high point since the moderately enjoyable and lukewarm debut “Truth To Promises” and its more consistent yet less fun follow up "Sinctuary", but it’s still well within the clutches of mediocrity. It’s heavy enough, but so utterly predictable and stagnant that it’s only really separated from the average Atreyu or Deftones album is Andy Franck’s slightly cleaner yet still gritty renditions of early 90s Warrel Dane and the guitar solos. A few individual songs here and there might raise an ear for a few minutes, but hearing a whole album of straight-lined, overproduced, mid-tempo musical dithering is difficult for your average power metal maniac to get through without falling asleep.
In case that there be any doubt as to the lack of priority in songwriting in this format, a quick analysis of a few of the better songs can quickly reveal a band that wins over its hype by recording single-oriented albums while not actually releasing singles. “Visions” is the typical radio favorite that is not far from the Industrial influenced drivel heard out of In Flames a few years prior, but with more lead breaks and a slightly manlier vocal job. “The Eternal” sounds like a more keyboard heavy reject from a Masterplan album without the fun changeups and Coverdale-inspired vocal gymnastics. “The Mindless” functions as something of a hybrid of the other two, and is made unnecessarily long with a bunch of randomly placed audio clips from the news following the 9/11 attacks.
Beyond these 3 songs, each of which don’t really qualify as being consistent, it’s all a mixture of differing groove/modern infused songs that have few ideas and are redeemable only in that they are fairly short, though not short enough. Even the occasional bright spots on here are not memorable and easily mistaken for other bands that do this style better and with more focus. 11 years to the day of this band’s debut, I can still safely say that apart from “Truth To Promises”, that Symphorce is a very skip-worthy name.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 28, 2011.
I can't believe it. Symphorce just won't give up. So Become Death was a terrible release, I think most can agree on that. And everything before it has been listenable, but mostly just far below average metal. If you think about it, Truth To Promises had some neat ideas, and they changed their style a bit for Sinctuary, which had a few cool songs (and also that painful production), notably the fun ride "Nice Dreams" (which funnily is a cover). After this, it has all gone downhill, straight to the bottom at which album number 7; “Unrestricted” lies. Or is it the bottom? Well, let's hope for the sake of mankind that they finally reached it.
Compare with Become Death for a second. There was still a shred of creativity left which resulted in an album that was really bad, but not a complete train wreck. The difference with Unrestricted is that there's nothing new anywhere, everything is ripped and thrown together at the last minute, and even the new stuff they came up with sounds just incredibly bad. Like the awful keyboards they now put in? Now, it's not just terrible power/mallcore album, but a god awful, horrible techno-power/mallcore hybrid. Listen to the beginning of Whatever Hurts. What the fuck? I mean, seriously, I waited for over two years (for some reason) to hear something new from Symphorce, in hopes that they maybe could release an album that wasn't a very flawed or simply put; a pile of shit. THIS is what they came up with. Same for “The Waking hour”, it's so stupid! Same goes for the way the ending solo begins on "Visions". Also, someone needs to be shot for the song they call "The Last Decision". Since the words in my vocabulary can't describe how insultingly horrible it is, I'm not even going to try. I could at least say this: Andy, shut up!
Oh look, Symphorce, you tried to be a little political with The Mindless, bringing up 9/11 and that kind of issue. You might as well have rallied up the families of the victims and just flipped them off. I don't really see the difference here; it is the same kind of insult. ”Hey let’s dedicate a pile of garbage to those poor victims” sounds like something they said in the rehearsal room when “writing” the song. It could at least have saved some production cost and time to use the middle finger.
If there's one good thing about Unrestricted, it could be the decent production. It's actually well done. But I'd rather have a bunch of 16 year olds playing helloween-clone music, sounding like they play inside a garbage can, than try to put up with this shit. I mean seriously, there’s not one, not ONE damn catchy part on this record. Someone please do me a favor and just put Symphorce down, once and for all. If anyone has bought this album, I truly feel very sorry for you. No sane person would ever think this was even decent. There's nothing attractive on here, for any metal fan. The guitars are playing meaningless mallcore riffs and Andy B Franck is sounding more like Anders Fridén every day. Avoid at all damn costs if you like decent music.